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Journal of Marine Biology




Sea cucumbers can mitigate some impacts of climate change through digestion of benthic sands and production of calcium carbonate. The projected ecological benefits of sea cucumbers in warmer, more acidic oceans are contingent on the capacities of individuals to acclimate and populations to adapt to climatic changes. The goal of this experiment was to evaluate the degree to which warming waters would impact three abundant species of sea cucumbers on the Heron Reef in Queensland, Australia. We conducted a behavioral assay using three species of sea cucumbers, Holothuria atra, Stichopus chloronotus, and Holothuria edulis. Individuals from each species were subjected to three conditions mimicking current summer temperatures, current winter temperatures, and an elevated temperature consistent with future ocean warming by the year 2100. Sea cucumber reactions were evaluated using righting time as a proxy for their stress levels and overall tolerance of warming events. The three sea cucumber species reacted differently to water temperature changes: H. atra's righting times declined with temperature, S. chloronotus had greater righting times at high and low temperature extremes, and H. edulis's righting times remained relatively constant throughout. Our results suggest that each of these species might respond differently to ocean warming and while some may be able to continue to combat climate change in benthic communities, others may decline in ecological function.


This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License. © 2019 Elizabeth Buccheri et al.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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